The Towels In The Gym Cover My Tits Or My Arse But Never Both

Each time a lithe heap of muscle approaches me all wrapped in spandex and says they’re a personal trainer and do I need help I say ‘Yes, I do,’ because obviously. I am new here. I follow it up with my completely true excuse for the visible state of affairs: ‘I’ve spent the last year writing a book,’ I say and, motioning downwards and around-wards I continue: ‘I don’t know what happened but, like, look at me.”

The last bit is a lie and every muscle in the PT’s face – their muscley face, their muscley face – says ‘Yeah you do. You know exactly what you did, you doughy liar’. As they flex and do things with their visible veins I tell them all honest and heartfelt like I’m on Dr Phil that I sat on my own arse until it flattened out and became an unidentified top-end to my thighs. I dab at an invisible tear and tell them I did nothing more physical than typing stuff with my fingers and occasionally lifting a 300-page coffee-table book out of my way, or more likely pushing it weakly across the table until it cleared exactly the right dimensions to fit one packet of chocolate Digestive biscuits. I tell them completely unnecessarily and somewhat panicked that it’s not like I suddenly became obese or anything. I tell them that as long as I’m standing up while naked that being naked is not the most horrific of horrors but things have got soft to the point where I only look human-shaped if nothing is touching me, clothes-wise or seat-wise. They tell me to stop there and would I pick this thing up and put it down again ten times? I say yeah sure, that sounds doable, and the next day I cannot walk.

I sign up for pilates. I did one session of pilates when I was 15 and broken and most of the session was taken up by the bit where I stand in my underpants and a woman circles me with a clipboard telling me which bits of my body are wrong. It was an odd experience and I left there with five sheets of red dot stickers to put up around the house. Whenever I saw a red dot (placed at several eye-height locations) I was to stop stooping like a prematurely 6’1 human with tiny soft-spoken friends and stand up properly. Eventually the red dots became so familiar I stopped seeing them and when I moved out five years later and stood stooping at the airport gates I’m pretty sure they were still there. I never went back to pilates because I only had a coupon for one free session and that shit is expensive, so I never corrected all those bodily imperfections listed by clipboard lady on two sheets of A4 paper which she gave to my newly alarmed 15-year-old self. Front and back.

But listen: I HAVE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS AND I AM BORDERLINE LATE 20s NOW AND THAT IS ALL GOING TO CHANGE.

So I go to pilates. I take a mat off a hook and flop it down in the gap by the door through which a tiny Chinese man bursts and asks if we’re ready to ‘work it work it’. I have just trudged through the snow and am doubtful if I’m ready to work anything, but women look at their own faces sternly in the mirror and tell themselves they are ready to work it. He tells us to stand up and stop crying because he cycled here in these Jesus sandals and is related to Genghis Khan and are we actually ready to work it or not.

We stand up and he clocks me as most definitely new because I am looking at other people and not my own face in the mirror. Why would I look at my own stupid face in the mirror? That face doesn’t know shit. ‘YOU ARE THE DRIVER OF YOUR OWN BODY. STOP LOOKING AT THAT GUY, LADY.’ I mime an awkward sorry. ‘YOU TALL!’ he shouts at me across all the fit people and that one round guy who looks like Nathan Lane who later tells us he’s into musical theatre like it wasn’t obvious. I mime a chubby ‘I know’ and ‘is this relevant’ and we get started. He makes us do things with stretching and breathing and I’m smelling my own knees when suddenly he’s all up in my face, this distant relative of prolific banger Genghis Khan.

‘NICE BODY MOVEMENT. YOU USED TO BE A DANCER, TALL GIRL? BALLET?’

‘Uh. Yes. A million years ago,’ I croak.

‘I CAN SEE BY THE WAY YOU STAND. DON’T STAND LIKE THAT. DON’T POINT YOUR FEET, BALLERINA.’

I quit pointing my feet and start sweating instead. ‘ARE YOU REALLY PERSPIRING THAT HARD, BALLERINA? YOU SWEATY!’ He hands me a napkin. The class stops while I dab my huge red face. Nobody else is sweating except for my best pal Nathan Lane who gets told off for sipping Lucozade and gasping. ‘IS BAD FOR YOU. FULL OF SUGAR. MAKES YOU FAT!’

‘Fatter?’ Nathan blinks with enviable eyelashes and looks down at a possible 6-month pregnancy. He tucks the Lucozade into a shoe and shoots me a sheepish look, sweaty failure to sweaty failure.

‘HEY BALLERINA,’ he says ‘MOVE DOWN THE FRONT SO I DON’T HAVE TO KEEP COMING BACK THERE TO GIVE YOU NAPKINS FOR YOUR SWEATY FACE.’

‘Uh. No.’

‘NO? MOVE HERE NOW.’

The class stops again while I and my face drag a damp mat to the front of the class. I am ten-years-old again being made to sit at the teacher’s desk for making Jeremy Clarke laugh so hard he snapped a leg (the chair’s) while falling off it.

‘YOU A TENSE PERSON? YOUR SHOULDERS SAY YOU’RE TENSE. ARE YOU ANGRY ALL THE TIME, BALLERINA?’

‘Yes.’

‘I SHOULD BE A FORTUNE TELLER OR MAYBE YOU’RE JUST TOO OBVIOUSLY ANGRY. BE LESS ANGRY, BALLERINA.’

I reposition my eyebrows but you can’t swallow 26 years of angry just because some guy in tiny shorts tells you to.

‘HEY BALLERINA,’ he shouts an hour later when the class starts filing out. ‘AREN’T YOU TOO BIG TO BE A BALLERINA? YOU HUGE! HEY YOU KNOW WHO MY FAVOURITE DANCER IS, BALLERINA? NOT MICHAEL FLATLEY, BUT THE EVIL ONE IN THE LORD OF THE DANCE. SHE HAS NICE DRESSES.’

I stomped back home in the snow and fell over in the park, splayed like a fucked turtle on his shell/gym bag. I scrabbled on my knees to locate the phone I hurled at the frozen pond and I thought to myself: I am gonna be so buff.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Essays. Bookmark the permalink.